Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Every owner of lead-tainted home gets a buyback offer



By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] AnneMarie Hester sits with her children J.D., 1, Elly, 6 weeks, Beatrice, 3, and Maggie, 2, in the sun room of their Lexington Manor home Tuesday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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LIBERTY TWP. - Three more families at Lexington Manor will receive buyback offers by today on their homes, meaning all homeowners there will receive the offers.

A Ryland Homes spokeswoman acknowledged Tuesday she was mistaken last month when she told the Enquirer all residents currently living in the subdivisions initially received repurchase offers.

The buyback deal at first went only to homeowners who purchased their homes before Ryland found out high levels of lead were found in a yard there late last year, said Anne Madison, a Ryland spokeswoman.

But now Ryland plans on making an offer to all the homeowners living at Lexington Manor, a subdivision off Millikin Road that was built on a former skeet-shooting range.

"It was my error," Madison said Tuesday. The clarification came after the Enquirer was contacted by a homeowner who said she and two other families who recently purchased their homes had not initially gotten the buyback offer.

Lexington Manor is contaminated with hazardous levels of lead and arsenic and has been declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site. A cleanup is expected this summer.

Twenty families have sued Ryland and others involved with the lead. Last month, Madison said the company had offered all residents a deal to buy back their homes, which range from $190,000 to $330,000, plus $15,000 in additional costs and $10,000 off their next Ryland home.

But AnneMarie Hester told the Enquirer her family - and at least two others who recently purchased their homes - did not receive the offer.

When Hester, the mother of four small children, closed in December on her four-bedroom house on Furlong Way, she said she was handed a letter.

Written by John K. Adams, Ryland's Ohio Valley Division president, the Dec. 27 letter briefly explained that lead had been detected in a yard at the subdivision, but Ryland didn't think there was an immediate health risk and the situation would be resolved for all homeowners.

The homeowners already living at Lexington Manor were informed of the lead two weeks earlier, in a Dec. 14 letter, she noted.

But Hester said she trusted Ryland, signed the closing papers and, along with her husband, Colin, 37, moved into their home on a cul-de-sac with a yard that backs up to woods. The couple, with their children, now 3, 2, 1 and six weeks old, planned to stay forever.

But now the Hesters say they are back to square one and might move.

Madison declined to discuss the buyback offer Hester and the other two families who recently purchased their homes would receive, saying those details will remain private.

If Ryland were to purchase back all 28 homes now occupied out of the 46 lots in the subdivision and pay other costs, the company's loss could hit $15 million.

But after Hester gave Adams a letter last week outlining her concerns, he contacted her and said Ryland might just buy back their home for the price they paid, not pay the additional costs or offer the $10,000 discount on their next Ryland home.

She doesn't think that's right, saying every homeowner should get the same offer.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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